A Hidden Gem in the Sierra Madre: Vallarta Botanical Gardens Print
User Rating: / 0
PoorBest 
Written by Ann Shepphird   

Vallarta Botanical GardenJust 12 miles south of Puerto Vallarta along the appropriately named Palms-to-Pines Highway lies an Eden for lovers of all things botanical. Opened a little over six years ago, the Vallarta Botanical Gardens features more than 3,000 different species of plants, including indigenous orchids, agave, tree ferns and wildflowers. The 20 acres of land also includes trails for hiking and a mountain river ideal for swimming.

As a nonprofit dedicated to the research and education of plant life, Vallarta Botanical Gardens has hosted a number of workshops, including a recent Copomo (Maya Nut or Breadnut in English) festival, where local producers turned the sustainable forest crop into eight different kinds of food. Plans for upcoming festivals include one for edible flowers.

Also on site is the Hacienda de Oro restaurant, featuring a brick pizza oven and Mexican favorites made (when possible) using local ingredients, including milk and cheese from the nearby town of El Tuito. Their tortilla soup was truly one of the best I’ve ever had and they were kind enough to give us the recipe. So enjoy! I know I will!

Hacienda de Oro Tortilla Soup

Hacienda de Oro at Vallarta Botanical Garden

Ingredients:
1 quart chicken broth
2 tomatoes, roasted and peeled
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
2 guajillo chiles, seeded and deveined, soaked in hot water until soft
4 epazote leaves
1 tablespoon corn oil, plus enough to fry the tortillas
4 corn tortillas
crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese type
sliced avocado
Mexican crema or crême fraiche
Chicharron (pork rinds) or shredded cooked chicken
Strips or rings of guajillo chile

Preparation:
In a large saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes, garlic, onion, chiles and epazote in the blender with just enough broth to allow the blades to turn, and puree.
In a separate saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon corn oil, add the puree and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the simmering broth, cook another 15 minutes; add salt to taste.
Cut the tortillas into Frito-size strips, fry in hot oil until crispy, and drain well.
Serve the soup with the tortilla strips in the broth and pass the cheese, avocado, crema, chile strips and chicharron or chicken separately, to be added by each diner.
Serves 4.